House-Senate FY16 Budget Talks Begin
September 9, 2015|Jeff Davis
April 16, 2015
House-Senate negotiations on the fiscal 2016 budget blueprint have begun in earnest, with the House appointing a team of negotiators yesterday and the Senate expected to follow suit this week. The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget Committees returned to Washington during last week’s recess to begin the talks on their own.
The House and Senate versions of the budget plan (S. Con. Res. 11) are identical when it comes to discretionary appropriations totals subject to the $1.016 trillion cap under the Budget Control Act. But they have different assumptions for mandatory transportation spending that appear to revolve around Highway Trust Fund contract authority. The House budget assumes that new HTF contract authority will drop to near-zero in 2016, while the Senate budget appears to assume a 25 percent cut. But in both chambers, the assumed levels can be mitigated by the activation of “reserve fund” language that can increase the allowable HTF funding totals if legislation is passed to add money to the Trust Fund and keep it solvent. The House and Senate differ as to the conditions that the HTF solvency plan must meet.
The table on the following page shows the differing HTF “reserve fund” language in the House and Senate plans that must now be reconciled, as well as several other reserve fund provisions included in the Senate resolution but not the House counterpart.
Also, the Senate Budget Committee has (somewhat belatedly) released the “committee print” that is now used in lieu of an actual committee report on the budget. That document contains the general explanation and tables released earlier, but also includes communications from all Senate committees setting forth their views and estimates on the budget. The committee print also contains the actual enforcement of budget numbers – the allocation of spending authority to committees. Appropriations gets the lump sum prescribed in the Budget Control Act, but the Senate authorizing committees get allocations that in some cases assume some significant reductions. On the previous page are the allocations from the Senate budget for the three transportation-related committees, and given the size of the cuts, it is pretty clear that the cuts allocated to the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee have to come from HTF contract authority.
|Provisions in the House and Senate FY 2016 Budget Resolutions Relating to Surface Transportation Reauthorization|
|House Resolution||Senate Resolution|
|Sec. 510. In the House, the chair of the Committee on the Budget may revise the allocations, aggregates, and other budgetary levels in this concurrent resolution for any bill or joint resolution, or amendment thereto or conference report thereon, if such measure maintains the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, but only if such measure would not increase the deficit over the period of fiscal years 2016 through 2025. Sec. 404. For purposes of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985, or the rules or orders of the House of Representatives, a bill or joint resolution, or an amendment thereto or conference report thereon, that transfers funds from the general fund of the Treasury to the Highway Trust Fund shall be counted a new budget authority and outlays equal to the amount of the transfer in the fiscal year the transfer occurs.||Sec. 309. The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, amendments between the Houses, motions, or conference reports relating to Federal investment in the infrastructure of the United States by the amounts provided in such legislation for that purpose, provided that such legislation shall not include transfers from other trust funds but may include transfers from the general fund of the Treasury that are offset, provided further that such legislation would not increase the deficit over either the period of the total of fiscal years 2016 through 2020 or the period of the total of fiscal years 2016 through 2025.|
|The Senate resolution also contains the following provisions that have no House counterpart.|
|The Senate resolution also contains many other “reserve fund” provisions that all say “The Chairman of the Committee on the Budget of the Senate may revise the allocations of a committee or committees, aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, amendments between the Houses, motions, or conference reports [fill in the blank], by the amounts provided in such legislation for that purpose, provided that such legislation would not increase the deficit over either the period of the total of fiscal years 2016 through 2020 or the period of the total of fiscal years 2016 through 2025.” The fill-in-the-blank sections relating to transportation and public works are:|
|Sec. 310. “relating to Federal spending on civil air traffic control services, which may include air traffic management at airport towers across the United States or at facilities of the Federal Aviation Administration”|
|Sec. 316. “relating to improving flood control, expanding opportunities for commercial navigation, and improving the environmental restoration of the nation’s waterways without raising new revenue”|
|Sec. 399t. “relating to strengthening waterborne commerce in our ports and harbors, which may include increasing the amounts expended from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that are dedicated to port infrastructure and maintenance in accordance with section 2201(b) of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-121)”|
|Sec. 399jj.”relating to the prioritization of the Federal investment in the infrastructure of the United States on projects that are of national and regional significance and projects in high priority corridors of the National Highway System”|
|Sec. 399ddd.”to encourage freight planning and investment that incorporates all modes of transportation including rail, waterways, ports and highways”|
|Sec. 399fff. “relating to the establishment of a public-private partnership tasked with reviewing training and funding allocations for first responders relating to hazardous materials incidents on railroads”|
|Sec. 399jjj.”relating to the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to designate funds for water projects, which may include authorized rural water projects or tribal water rights settlements or irrigation projects”|
|Sec. 399ttt. “relating to Federal investments in the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (“TIGER”) discretionary grant program”|
|Sec. 399bbbb. “relating to providing full and dedicated funding for the Contract Tower Program of the Federal Aviation Administration”|
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